Grand Valley State University (GVSU), a public university in Allendale, Michigan, is being accused of racism for organizing complementary graduation celebrations separated by race.
The events, which are set on different dates this spring, include one for Asian students, one for Black students, one for Latinx students and one for Native American students. There is also a separate ceremony for LGBTQIA+ graduates called “Lavender Graduation.”
A general commencement ceremony will still take place as a main event.
GVSU described the celebrations as “cultural graduations” that aim to recognize “accomplishments in the spirit and traditions of our diverse identities and cultures.”
It was not immediately clear how long the segregated events are being held at the university, but the “Black Graduation Celebration,” for one, has been set since at least 2016, according to Fox News. Other higher education institutions across the country have also organized similar ceremonies, including Harvard University and Columbia University.
“Ridiculous. Grand Valley State University (@GVSU) is holding five segregated graduation celebrations, singling out Asian, black, LGBT, Hispanic, and Native American graduates,” Walsh tweeted on Tuesday. “There will be no special celebrations for straight white people, of course.”
The university’s plans drew mixed reactions following Walsh’s tweet, with some users accusing GVSU of racism while others pointed out that most graduation ceremonies are already “white.”
“That is extreme racism. They need to be defunded,” one user replied.
Another commented, “Most celebrations are of straight white (male) people. Be quiet!”
Meanwhile, one wrote: “IDK how to feel about this. They are trying to honor them each as individual groups, but I guarantee that most of these people don’t want to be identified by the color of their skin.”
In a statement to Newsweek, GVSU stressed that the smaller events are complementary to the traditional, unified graduation ceremony and denied “segregating graduation ceremonies by race.”
While each celebration provides learning opportunities to specific communities, all activities are open to all students and employees. The majority of graduating students who participate in one of our affinity group graduation celebrations also choose to participate in our larger commencement ceremony.
In another statement to Newsweek, a GVSU spokeperson said: “Grand Valley State University holds unified commencement ceremonies for all of its graduates. GVSU is not ‘segregating graduation ceremonies by race.’”